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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Game Play: Hotel Dusk Room 215

This isn't really a review since I'm not finished with the game and for a game like Hotel Dusk that's a bit like commenting on a story before getting to the end.

So like most titles, I'll just comment on the mechanics and leave the story for later.

Hotel Dusk is a graphical work of interactive fiction. In general, the interface is pretty smart and original. Holding the DS like a book, one side works as a map, or 3D view to specify objects, or a character screen for interaction. It's straight-forward and versatile.

And yet at times - it just breaks down.

Don't get me wrong ... I love seeing a piece like this on the DS. I want to see many more of them - but Hotel Dusk occasionally falls victim to some of the worst pitfalls in game design. Games are their least fun when I know what I'm supposed to do and I'm honestly trying to do it ... but I keep failing and start to assume that wasn't what I'm supposed to do.

In an adventure game where you have to do a specific task to progress the plot ... that can get pretty annoying.

Some spoilers ahead.

For instance, there's an object in the game where you need to figure out what is written on something. So I covered it in flour. And the game just stared at me. I actually tried blowing on the mic to blow the flour off (and got a stare from The Girl in the process) ... to no avail. Turns out I just wasn't rubbing enough flour on it. Or something. I'm not sure.

A more egregious example just happened to me last night. I was trying to put something in my suitcase. My mistake? Actually opening the suitcase first. Essentially the game was punishing me for being logical and not allowing me to move forward.

Granted, most of Hotel Dusk is a pretty smooth ride. In general the puzzles aren't terribly complex and often pretty well broadcasted. Defenders will certainly stick up for it's use of narrative and unique graphical style. And I think that's all grand.

At the same time though - we should acknowledge why formats like IF and adventure games have been dying off. This is one of those reasons. This is why I refuse to force anyone to fight with a parser to read a story. Just like action games have slowly realized how inane jumping puzzles are ... IF pieces need to worry about how usable their logic puzzles will end up. It's one thing to run to the Internet because you're just truly stumped ... it's another to need a walkthrough to tell you what you already know.

Don't get me wrong ... I still love this game. But I can see why it might annoy the average gamer.


Unknown said...

Hotel Dusk was an awesome game. Lots of fun stuff, although admittedly the hype died really fast with this one it seems.

It was such a breath of fresh air though, even from your normal puzzle, adventure, shooting, war games and quirky nintendo stuff.

It did punish you a bit for messing up sadly, with too many restarts and the narrative sometimes was a bit slow.

But for doing what it does it was awesome and I respect it for trying new things but I guess you couldnt call it flaw free games

Josh said...

Hey, if you want to comment here because you're interested - that's cool.

If you are an employee of Kuma and you are simply adding links to the company, I'll start deleting your posts.


Greg Tannahill said...

I only just started Hotel Dusk. It's definitely a huge improvement over Cing's last effort, Another Code, but it's got some problems. It's like they read Ron Gilbert's puzzle game design manifesto and then took it too literally. The way you can't pick up items until you find a use for them, even though you KNOW they're going to be useful, is especially frustrating. Also I don't know if it changes later, but right now I feel like I'm just reading an interactive book rather than playing something - everything seems tightly on rails and my next objective is always way too heavily prompted.

Oh, and by the way, I'm back online!

Josh said...

Yeah, the "inactive" items bit gets old because you end up trying the same thing repeatedly, simply because you aren't sure if you've talked to that right character or done that thing to activate it. It's bad "teaching" for the user.

And welcome back!